A while back, I wrote a pregnancy book with Joel Evans, an Ob/Gyn with a holistic practice. (It's called The Whole Pregnancy Handbook) When we got to the birth section, Joel and I had a few conversations about what happens in a labor room. I myself was pregnant at the time and I remember Joel saying something along the lines of, "Couples should try to be honest with themselves about whether or not the dad needs to be at the birth because for a lot of men and a lot of women, it'd be better if he weren't there." Joel said this because of what he'd witnessed at births, including those of his own two sons, but it still felt like he was speaking a truth that dared not be named.
Well, over at Babble, my friend Ceridwen Morris speaks this truth and puts a few names on it. A childbirth educator and author (From the Hips), Morris asks whether or not it's time to acknowledge that when it comes to pregnancy, the experiences of men and women are not equal. After all, as Ceridwen notes, it's not "we" who's pregnant, but "she." This doesn't mean a dad-to-be should opt out of all pregnancy and birth information-gathering, but that the differences between a man becoming a dad and a woman becoming a mom need to be aired out. Ceridwen writes:
So, instead of keeping dad away, maybe the answer is as simple as acknowledging that the period of pregnancy and birth can be weird and awkward and alienating for him. We can talk more about the differences between men and women’s experiences. We can give mom permission to go though a distinctly female experience without feeling like she’s a sell-out to women’s rights. We should look harder at why dad is feeling so passive in the delivery room. And give him better tools to help his pregnant/birthing/lactating partner in a way that bolsters confidence. I spend much of my time in birth classes showing men precisely how not to be passive. I don’t talk about how he can go through labor, but how he can support it. And I do see an up-swing of confidence.
This makes perfect sense. Nothing is as empowering as talking about what freaks you out. When it comes to having a child, there's a lot to freak out about, so you might as well start talking sooner rather than later.